The Caregiver’s Journey
When a person becomes a caregiver for a loved one who has a mental illness, he/she enters a world where former expectations and ideas about how the world is or should be will be challenged. While the world of the person who struggles with the challenges of mental illness offers unique passages of personal and spiritual growth; so too does the path of the caregiver.
The challenges of learning the difference between empowering and encouraging someone and providing necessary care and enabling while reducing the loved one’s self perception of confidence competence and inadvertently inducing dependence, which usually also breeds resentment; the heart wrenching fears and agonizing with and for one’s loved one while watching him/her suffer; working through feelings of helplessness and confusion and managing all of the thoughts and emotions that are part of loving someone who’s life might be adversely affected by mental illness, are all part of world of a caregiver. So, why volunteer and make such a commitment?
A caregiver often gives much personal time, money and emotional investment to the cause of the loved one who is suffering. A caregiver‘s world might be dramatically changed once he or she comes to terms with making a lifetime commitment to caring for a loved one with severe mental illness. Yet, there is more than what at first meets the eye. All of the above challenges that I mentioned and more will be experienced by any commitment caregiver who loves someone with severe mental illness, yet those challenges are transforming in a way that no other path can provide. Perhaps your loved one is an adult child, or a spouse, or a parent, or a friend; whatever the case may be, this is a person who needs your support. The existential questions of why this and not that?; is this karma? ; etc, will no doubt surface for you as you attempt to make sense out of your own life.
Such transformation that the caregiver experiences can bring profound personal and spiritual growth to the on dedicated to helping. The result can be liberating and embracing the live of dedication and love with a commitment to being there for the person who is managing mental illness. Such a journey can bring a soul to deepening and the light of one’s being to become acutely aware of the interconnection between all human beings to such a level that commitment cannot escape the giver. These levels of understanding, and this place of peace within one’s own consciousness is earned, over time, challenge by challenge, day by day, crisis by crisis, tear by tear. The giver will learn so much about what lies beyond the ego, the façade, and the trappings of this world. The giver of care will come to learn another human being to such depths that she/he cannot fail to learn about his or her own self. This earned wisdom and delight elevates the giver to “higher planes” of existence, and is well worth the process. There will be choices to make; should I live here, or there, do I really need to buy that? Do I really need to join that club? And when the caregiver unfolds upon his/her journey to the place where this is no longer felt as a sacrifice, but rather, one’s life-and a gift from the heavens; the caregiver begins to live and can experience the joy of each day for what it is. At the heart of the matter, at the end of the day, when all has been weighed and reflected upon, the giver of care will come to realize his/her Soul Goal. This understanding and awareness is fertile soil from which miracles spring forth.
This is my own personal reflection of a journey and my own answers to the why’s of staying with it, staying with the process and the person who needs your support. The caregiver who goes into the journey with the understanding that care giving is a commitment and a choice that requires one to give some things up for the privilege of caring is well on his or her way to unfolding and growing to a higher level of consciousness where authentic connection and authentic joy is authentically experienced. The care giver will have thoroughly examined his or her priorities in life, clarified his or her values, and will have strong principles developed within his or her own being. This transformative experience will help us to become supreme supporters of those we love which in turn will empower them to express their own light with confidence regardless of the circumstances that they might find themselves in. When our loved ones feel how much we find joy and honor in being a part of their life and having our loved ones in our life, and that indeed the loved one is our priority; a magic like mutual transformation can be shared.
If there are times in the process of caring for your loved one that seem bleak remember, all of the same mental health tools and self care techniques, and strategies for life that your loved one is encouraged to embrace and use, are there for you as well. These are really simply strategies for living a well life, for knowing who you are, for finding your higher self and expressing that part of you that is beyond your ego. This path of giving and caring can truly elevate you to a joyful and spiritual plane. With that said, if you are ready to study, learn, work hard, and live a life quite different than you might have envisioned while embracing that life that is before you; you will do well, and it will be well worth it. Below are links to previous posts that address some of the specifics of care giving? One Day At A Time.
Ten Things to Do When Everything Erupts
Getting Your Loved One Into Treatment
Helping During the Psychiatric Hospital Stay
Helping Your Loved One Recover
Taking Care of You When Your Loved One is Hospitalized